Speculaas is this amazing Dutch dessert…It’s actually 3 different products, or perhaps more, I don’t really know the extent of it’s amazingness. What I was introduced to though is first, the Speculaas cookie. It’s sort of like a graham cracker, in that it is not too sweet and it’s cinnamony. It is a bit more buttery (although you can find vegan ones in supermarkets easily!), is harder (like a thin, crunchy, shortbread cookie biscuit), and is stamped with ornate molds on the tops, so they are very pretty and always different depending where you get them.
They sell them prepackaged in stores or also you can get them at bakeries, in different small or very large sizes. Dutch people (and also Belgian, because I saw them in Brussels…Although in Belgium you call them Speculoos, not Speculaas) eat them with tea for breakfast. Yum. Apparently you can also get them in the States but they are called Dutch Windmill Cookies (and, I’m not sure that those are vegan).
Speculaas have a very specific spice mix that adds to the flavor. It is a combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, coriander, and sometimes white pepper. And the secret ingredient is orange rind! Yummy. They taste like Fall to me. You can buy this spice mix in the spice section of the grocery store here, if you wanted to bake your own Speculaas cookies…Or make cupcakes with it, as we did! I think I’ll have to create my own spice mix back in the States because it is really delicious and then I can eat Speculaas all the time!
The third product, which I personally think is the best, is Speculaas Paste. It has the consistency of smooth peanut butter, and a similar color. Really what it is, is ground up Speculaas cookies mixed with oil and emulsifiers so it becomes smooth and doesn’t separate. The Dutch eat it spread on toast. They seem to eat a lot of things spread on toast, like Nutella, white chocolate Nutella, flavored coconut strips, assorted nut butters (hazelnut, peanut, sunflower seed, etc), and the weirdest one I think is melted sprinkles (like sprinkles you would put on ice cream sundaes, but you make toast and then you cover the toast with butter and a heavy layer of sprinkles and let it melt onto the bread and then you eat it…For breakfast. Mmm). So you can take Speculaas spread and put it on your toast too…So it’s like cookies on toast. Perfect. Or you can just eat it with a spoon, which is actually the best way I think.
Tara and I decided that 3 Speculaas products were not enough, and it should actually be made into cupcake form! We made Speculaas cupcakes by mixing the spice powder into cupcakes, along with ground Speculaas cookies and a bit of rye flour (the Dutch use lots of rye flour, it’s impressive! There are lots of gluten-free products made from it, that are just normal traditional Dutch foods, like breakfast cakes and Speculaas cookies). The cupcakes are delicious by themselves, a bit spicy and not too sweet. It’s a little like a gingerbread, but less heavy and with a nice zesty orange taste added. You could certainly eat these as muffins, with breakfast or as a light dessert.
Note the very cute red and white Dutch cupcake wrappers:
We piped some pure Speculaas paste into the center of the cakes, using Tara’s great-grandmother’s pastry tube and Tara’s method of injecting filling which is actually quite surgical, and fun. She often injects her frostings more than once into each cupcake, so when you bite into it you have many inserts of sweet gooey filling!
We made a fluffy frosting using the Speculaas paste, extra Speculaas spices, a bit of vegan butter and powdered sugar, vanilla, a dash of almond extract, and some white flour to give it body. We couldn’t stop eating it! We spread and piped it liberally on our cupcakes, and then decorated them with pieces of Speculaas cookies and ground up cookies sprinkled on top. With Tara’s influence, we decorated each cupcake individually, so it was quite a beautiful site to behold when we were finished, and required us to take lots of pictures!